Identifying how GPs spend their time and the obstacles they face: a mixed methods study

Published in


Sinnott C, Moxey JM, Marjanovic S, et al. What GPs do and what gets in their way: a mixed-methods study. British Journal of General Practice. 2021


Whether it’s looking for a missing piece of equipment, dealing with a frustratingly slow computer, or trying to work out what medication to prescribe to a patient whose discharge letter hasn’t arrived from the hospital, GPs face many challenges in going about their work.

Everyday problems in the working environment – often known as ‘operational failures’ – are very common. They can have very negative effects on GPs’ ability to deliver effective patient care, and on their experiences of work.

Why it matters

General practice is facing a workforce crisis, with GPs reporting unmanageable workloads and high levels of burnout. So far, very few studies have attempted to observe operational failures in real time. Observing GPs at work can provide important new insights into how common these problems are and which could be targets for improvement.

Our approach

Working with 61 GPs at 28 general practices across the East of England, we observed 238 hours of live consultations with patients, recording a total of 7679 GP tasks. We recorded what kinds of operational failures occur and how often using structured methods, and we made more general observations about the nature of problems and their impacts. We interviewed 51 GPs after the observations.

What we found

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Identifying how GPs spend their time and the obstacles they face

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